The Faces Behind the Data: Sharing Supply Chain Study Results in Boyacá and Quindío
From July 7 to 11, four members of the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT)’s Decision and Policy research area (DAPA)’s Linking Farmers to Markets (LFM) team traveled to the Colombian towns of Villa de Leyva and Armenia, in the Boyacá and Quindío departments, respectively, to present results from last year’s study, “Public Policies on Linking Farmers to Markets in Colombia and the Latin American Region: Making Farmers More Competitive, Less Poor,” funded by the Ford Foundation.
Visiting researcher Elizabeth Minchew (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid) organized each event, where participants from Regional Agricultural Supply Chain Committees (vegetables in Boyacá and plantains in Quindío) as well as key local and national actors were invited to actively participate in the distribution of the project’s results. Vail Miller (who conducted field research in 2013 as a visiting researcher with LFM and is currently studying development at the University of Oxford), Elizabeth Minchew and DAPA Public Policy Analyst, Rafael Isidro Parra-Peña, presented the results and recommendations. Fellow visiting researcher Jorge Sellare (University of Erfurt) managed the photo and video team, which we discuss more in detail below.
One of the most compelling aspects of the project was a case study on tomato growers in Boyacá. Through in-depth surveys with 120 tomato growers conducted over several weeks in 2013, members of CIAT-DAPA’s LFM team collected demographic and livelihood information, supplemented by data on productivity, market competitiveness, and cooperation via involvement in farmer associations. Additionally, the surveys applied the Grameen Foundation’s Progress out of Poverty Index to assess poverty levels. The data was used to analyze the effectiveness of Colombian agricultural policy aimed at simultaneously improving market competitiveness and reducing rural poverty. The study has produced three full-length reports as well as three policy briefs, two of which have been published and can be found below:
Policy Brief #8 “Colombian Supply Chains: How Public Policy Shapes Agriculture” (Español)
Policy Brief #17 “Strengthening Regional Supply Chains for Agricultural in Colombia” (Español)
In lieu of sharing the report’s findings in a lengthy document, DAPA LFM took advantage of these field visits to begin the production of a dynamic short video introducing the faces of those directly impacted by the agricultural policy referenced in previous reports. The CIAT team interviewed producers and industry representatives about the effect of agricultural policy on their work and livelihoods.
The journey started in Bogotá, where the team met with Javier Burgos, CEO of Eurosemillas, an international seed company working to promote sustainable and innovative tomato plant technology in Boyacá. Javier discussed his vision and motivation for introducing new agricultural technology to the region, including his goals of exploring niche markets, such as cherry tomatoes, as well as providing tools that could help Boyacense farmers produce more advanced and resilient tomato varieties. Javier’s belief in the potential of the region to become a formidable force in both national and international markets is grounded in his experience studying tomato production and farmer associations in the Canary Islands, where many of northern Europe’s tomatoes come from. With Eurosemillas, Javier hopes to help develop the cooperative production model in Colombia.
From Bogotá the team traveled to Villa de Leyva, Boyacá, to see what the farmers had to share. A key finding of CIAT’s research was that the national policy lacks a commercialization component, making it difficult for farmers to improve their market presence. Farmers repeatedly acknowledged that challenges posed by production and yield pale in comparison to the obstacles that they face when trying to sell their goods to wholesalers in Bogotá. Price fluctuations, quality indifference, and volatile market demand make business risky and inefficient.
Meeting local actors
Returning to Villa de Leyva, the LFM team joined local collaborator ADEL Dinosaurios in leading a workshop aimed at creating a space for local, regional and national actors to meet, review and discuss the report’s findings. The diverse crowd of more than twenty-five attendees included the Technical Secretary for the National Vegetable Supply Chain, leaders of farmer associations, industry representatives, local government officials, and representatives from regional NGOs and community councils.
Seeking a comparative perspective
Leaving the valleys of Boyacá, the LFM team headed west to the Colombian coffee region. In Armenia, the team presented the study to members of the National Council of Colombia’s Plantain Supply Chain, which included members of the Regional Plantain Committee and representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture in Bogotá. The National Council’s meeting took place at Instituto Colombiano Agropecuario (ICA) – Quindío, and included members of other regional ICA offices, Asohofrucol, farmer organization Musáceas del Quindío, Fedeplacol and representatives of Universidad Nacional Abierta y a Distancia (UNAD).
The National Council meeting provided a fantastic opportunity for our research to land in the right people’s hands. Participants debated the need for improved channels of communication that can help transmit science and technology from research center’s microscopes directly to farmers’ hands. They highlighted the relative non-existence of agricultural extension agents and low associativity of farmers as key constraints to market expansion.
Our team is excited to begin the process of editing the footage captured during this journey and completing a video that will serve as an effective tool for both communicating the findings of the study and giving a voice to farmers involved in the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development’s policy. It is our hope that by combining poignant interviews, relevant discussions and sound research, CIAT will contribute to more informed policy decisions.
We look forward to sharing the final product soon!
All photos taken by Jorge Sellare.